Obituary of Philip Arthur Leff
Philip Arthur Leff, 91, died peacefully on October 21, 2023, at home in Iowa City, surrounded by his family.
Philip was the eldest child of Arthur and Zella Leff, born at Mercy Hospital in Iowa City on August 31, 1932. He attended Lincoln Grade School, Central Junior High and City High School, graduating in 1950. He attended the University of Iowa, receiving a bachelor's degree in political science and a Juris Doctor with distinction from the Law School in 1959.
While attending Central Jr. High, he met Peggy Joyce Ferber. Phil and Joyce dated in high school and on July 26, 1953, were married at the First United Methodist Church in Iowa City. Immediately after the marriage, they moved into the apartment building that now houses Pagliai's Pizza. Phil kept the boiler filled, cleaned the hallways and shoveled the walks to supplement their rent. Phil and Joyce celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary this summer.
After their first son Todd was born in 1954, Phil, who was in the ROTC program at Iowa, was called up for active service, interrupting his education for 3 years. He was stationed at Travis Air Force Base in California, where he served as an Air Transport navigator, flying frequently from Travis to the Far East. His second child, Missy, was born at Travis in 1956. Upon his return to Iowa City, Phil completed his law studies and, in 1959, began practicing law with his father, Arthur Leff. In 1960, his third child, Adam, was born.
The Leff and Leff Law firm eventually grew to include Phil's younger brother, Al Leff, and evolved into the Leff Law Firm on South Linn Street in Iowa City. In addition to his private law practice, Phil was an adjunct Professor at the University of Iowa College of Law, where he taught a course, “Title Examination and Real Estate Transactions,” for 42 years. He retired from the law practice in 2008.
In addition to his law work, Phil was an enthusiastic supporter of the local community. He was a lifelong member of the Iowa City Noon Kiwanis, serving as its president in 1966 – ten years after his father served in that role. He was on the board of directors of several local establishments, including Mercy Hospital and the Hawkeye State Bank. Phil was elected to the Iowa City School Board and served as president in the early 1970s. He was a lifelong member of the First United Methodist Church of Iowa City.
Phil was an avid and talented fisherman who took annual fishing trips to various lakes in northern Canada with the same group of friends for over 40 years. He also spent many enjoyable evenings after work, fishing in the small pond behind his house.
Phil was a devoted and affectionate family man. When his children were young, family vacations were summer car trips to resorts in northern Minnesota, where he tried, with some success, to interest his kids in fishing. His grandchildren delighted in the bedtime stories he concocted for them over the years. As marriages and grandchildren appeared on the scene, Sanibel, Florida, became the spot of annual mid-March getaways. For over 30 years, the expanded families gathered on the beach, sea shell collections grew, grandkids learned to swim under Phil's careful watch, and the most wonderful memories were made. The families gathered by train, plane, and automobile every year at the Leff home in Iowa City to celebrate the Christmas holidays. This was the year's highlight for all - amazing food, stuffed stockings, and card games around the dining table.
In their later years, Phil and Joyce became avid travelers, visiting many countries with a group of close friends. They enjoyed learning about new cultures, lands, and their people. Phil and Joyce’s interest in foreign countries extended to hosting university exchange students in their home. They maintained friendships with these students from around the world. Phil and Joyce were admired and appreciated for the “home away from home” they provided.
Phil is survived by his loving wife, Joyce Leff; children, Todd (Nancy) Leff, Missy (Mike) Petrak, and Adam (Laura) Leff; grandchildren Hannah (Matt) Sparks, Nick Petrak, Ben Leff, and Amelia Leff; great-grandchildren Samuel, Emma, and Sadie Sparks; and his brother Alan (Jan) Leff of Iowa City.
A time of visitation for family and friends will be held from 1 to 3pm Saturday, November 25th, at Gay & Ciha Funeral and Cremation Service, with some remarks being shared beginning at 2:30pm. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made in Phil’s memory to Iowa City Hospice.